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Andrew

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Everything posted by Andrew

  1. Andrew

    Family Romance, LLC

    There may be an element of PR to his statement, but I still think it's worth taking notice when a major director says this is one of his essential films. I'm not sure I fully agree with his sentiment, but I still think Herzog's Family Romance, LLC has much to commend it. Da 5 Bloods is probably my favorite film of 2020 so far, but this isn't far behind. (And dang, he's got another film dropping on streaming services this month and another premiering in Toronto next month.) Here's my review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2020/08/family-romance-llc-in-werner-herzogs-latest-a-japanese-business-raises-universal-questions/
  2. So far: The Fight (the ACLU doc). We started watching She Dies Tomorrow but couldn't get into it. Tonight: Family Romance, LLC (was delighted to discover that Herzog's latest had moved from specialized streaming services to general ones). In between, Jessica and I will probably finish HBO's Golden State Killer docuseries, I'll Be Gone in the Dark.
  3. Andrew

    Embrace of the Serpent

    Well, this was upsetting to come across: https://www.indiewire.com/2020/06/ciro-guerra-denies-sexual-harassment-abuse-1234569554/ I suspect Guerra is on his way to cancel country, with what looks to be good reason. His Birds of Passage (2018) is almost as excellent as this film, and he's got another film dropping on streaming platforms tomorrow (Waiting for the Barbarians), which was at 50% on RT last I checked.
  4. Oh, that's something I hadn't considered, so maybe it's a silver lining that they're shutting out non-Canadian viewers. That softens the blow of this morning's news somewhat. I read and re-read those press announcements, too, but they were long on feel-good sentiment and short on specifics. Especially with Telluride flat-out cancelling, it seems this was nothing more than kumbaya vacuity. That's a great idea; I'll PM you about the nuts and bolts of this. If this doesn't pan out, I'll look into the Virginia options that Christian mentioned.
  5. Well, shit...this is the email that I received from TIFF this morning: "We have noted in The Weekly what is available only in Canada, but there will continue to be opportunities and programming which is not geo-blocked included as well. To confirm for you, limitations to our digital systems do mean that New releases and collections are not available to rent outside of Canada. However, we are looking to have special talks and panel events as part of year-round and Festival programming added to the platform, which would be accessible to you. We are also committed to making content available on our social channels when we can, including our weekly Stay-at-Home Cinema Q&As with special guests. Of course, we understand that both travel restrictions and system limitations mean that our International friends cannot enjoy a full TIFF experience. As an important part of our community, I want to assure you that we will do all we can to make sure you can still participate as much as possible as we look forward to re-opening our doors to you. Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for TIFF - it goes a long way toward making us such a thriving member of the international film community." Any recommendations for domestic festivals that will be digital this year?
  6. That's a concern of mine as well. Darren, do you know if participation will be possible for those living outside of Canada?
  7. Yes to all of that. It's a symphony to my ears as well, largely because it does have four discrete sections, even if there's no break between them. And I would definitely recommend listening to the podcast I linked to - it turns out that the Brahmsian brass was an intentional homage, with a similar reason for its deployment as Johannes' First Symphony. As for what's next, no survey in the immediate offing (though I have listened to some Nielsen lately and enjoyed it quite a bit). However, I am planning to dig into some 20th C music that I've never paid close attention to before: Stravinsky's classic ballet scores (embarrassed to say I have no recordings, something I plan to remedy promptly), Schoenberg's chamber symphonies and Pierrot Lunaire.
  8. Anybody else planning to participate? Obviously, Jessica and I won't be crossing the border, but we plan to participate online. In the context of a pandemic, it's first-world problems, but we've not gotten away for more than 48 hours since last year's TIFF, so we're chomping at the bit to rent a house somewhere for a week, order good takeout, and watch good films. The planners have been understandably withholding of details thus far, though premieres of films by Vinterberg and Kawase hold some appeal, and Ammonite sounds promising. Perhaps of greatest interest to folks here is the opening night film: Spike Lee's filming of David Byrne's recent Broadway show, American Utopia. (Quick tangent: a look at Lee's imdb page reveals that his next project after that is a Brooklyn hip-hop retelling of Romeo and Juliet, entitled Prince of Cats. Count me in!)
  9. Andrew

    Tchoupitoulas

    Christian, I'm glad you nudged me towards watching this; it really is a curious gem of a film. And yes, the after-party is a must-watch as well. As a hemi-documentary slice of life, I appreciate that it doesn't pass judgment on dive bar culture, showing that yes on the one hand it does enable alcoholics, but on the other it provides a home (as the Vietnam vet put it, in a re-working of the Cheers theme song, it's where you go when "nobody else wants your ass"). My review also offered a first for me: its lead actor (Michael Martin) graciously gave me notes via Twitter, which I went back and incorporated into an updated version of my review. That interaction alone made my day.
  10. Superb - thank you! This would be a tough sell for my kids for Saturday night viewing, but I think I'll watch and review it next week.
  11. No, I had been on the conversation the week before. I won't begrudge anyone their engagement with a work of art that moves them, but I don't foresee my own dial moving with Shirley - the way Decker distorts Shirley Jackson's life into a more fiction-than-fact tale of someone who is relatively recently deceased is deeply problematic to me, in a way that, say, Shakespeare in Love is not. On the other hand, I am very keen to watch Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, but I don't see anywhere online that it's readily available. Sigh...
  12. And finally the 7th Symphony. It's bonkers: there's a 2-year interval between the premieres of the 5th and 6th, and merely a year between the 6th and 7th. And after that, no more symphonies for the last 33 years of his life. It's one of many 'what ifs' in musical history: what if Schubert had lived more than 31 years, Mozart more than 35? What if Sibelius hadn't been hobbled by depression, alcoholism, and profound insecurity; how many more symphonies could we have been privileged with? Nonetheless, he finishes with beauty and splendid orchestration in a small package; performance times for this piece seem to run between 20-25 minutes, compressed into a single movement. (Sibelius waffled over whether to call this a true symphony or a symphonic fantasia; the former label stuck.) The piece starts in a manner that feels autumnal; there's even some Brahmsian brass in the first few minutes, though this is a Sibelius piece in its soundscape through and through. Overall, the mood feels upbeat, with a couple of carefree scherzo sections in the middle. And what grand fanfares in the last several minutes, before a lovely, (and on my first listen in many years) unexpectedly sudden conclusion. For a change of pace from the Finnish conductors, I decided to share a performance from that great British institution, the Proms: And I just remembered that American conductor Joshua Weilerstein did a walk-through of this symphony in May on his podcast. Time for me to go back and give it a listen, but I'll share the link here: https://stickynotespodcast.libsyn.com/sibelius-symphony-no-7
  13. I don't doubt the ADHD-level of cutting and stylistic shifts will be off-putting for some here, but my fam and I really enjoyed this one. I look at it as Scott Pilgrim meets Tampopo, with one scene in particular inspired by the latter film. I thought it was fairly insightful about the emotions of grieving. Here's my full review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2020/07/yes-its-oxymoronic-but-we-are-little-zombies-is-a-fun-look-at-grieving/
  14. Ah, that makes sense. Freakin' Wagner - was it Oscar Wilde who said he has his great moments and awful half-hours? That's about how I've always felt about him (and that's not even digging into his anti-Semitism). Agree 100% on the Sibelius-Shostakovich comparison. Listening to JS' symphonic cycle has definitely deepened my appreciation for his craft, but he doesn't consistently wow me like DS. Whether it's the latter's symphonies, concerti, chamber works, or song cycles, they almost always feel ground-breaking. I expect I'll dive into Sibelius' 7th next week...a crazy busy time at work has kept me from it so far.
  15. Andrew

    Hamilton

    Interesting. Maybe it's just a matter of degree: I feared there'd be way more cutting, and I appreciated the restraint in holding off from a closeup until Miranda first sings "Alexander Hamilton." Subsequent closeups seemed judiciously chosen to me - e.g., the close of "My Shot," in lengthy solos, etc. I do agree that the three or so overhead shots were indulgent, and a couple of shots from the rear were pointless, but those felt like the exception, not the norm.
  16. Andrew

    Hamilton

    So, two of my kids and I totally hopped on the Hamilton bandwagon back in 2015 or 2016, whenever it was we got our hands on the soundtrack. We listened to the music obsessively, and I read Chernow's biography (later moving on to his excellent bios of Washington and Grant; the guy's a helluva storyteller). In 2017, we planned our vacation in part so we could see the traveling Hamilton show in San Francisco. I'd love to hear Evan's critique as our resident musical expert (and others, too, of course), but for me, the musical is a near-perfect thing. It doesn't stray far from the true history (Hamilton's life was a short, wild thing, and he was as influential as the musical makes him out to be). The lyrics are dense, witty, and provocative. The choreography and lighting of the onstage performance are wonderful. And as a project of American optimism - in short supply these days - its non-white casting and aspirational qualities are most welcome. The articles cited above critique its lack of female representation, but I don't buy into that - Eliza and Angelica are strong characters in a substantially men's-only society, and it's fitting that Eliza gets the final solo in the musical. I feel the story drags a bit in the second act, but the songs from the Stay Alive reprise to the end of the play are then uniformly fabulous. So, it's pleased me to no end that Lin-Manuel decided to drop the filmed version of his musical onto the Disney channel and forego a theatrical release. And Thomas Kail, the original NYC director, did a solid job of lensing it. He isn't overly busy with switching camera angles and wisely emphasizes wide shots to enhance the "you are there" illusion of watching a stage show, reserving close-ups for the solos and high-impact moments.
  17. On to his 6th, and penultimate, symphony. The composer himself conducted its first performance in 1923, four years after he'd completed his final revision of the 5th. What a contrast between the two works; the Sixth seems a happier piece but with a coolness to it. I love the murmuring string effect that plays through much of the first two movements. His scherzo has a jaunty, frolicking quality to it in places, reminding me a bit of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream; though even when this movement has a galloping pace, it's a chilled-out gallop. And the final movement of his 6th, like his 1st, ends softly. Few options on YouTube, so I'll go again with the ever-reliable Salonen:
  18. Andrew

    Classical Music

    This is a gut punch of a choral piece. Today's NYT had an article about/interview with the composer, a black Jamaican-American who's now a student at the Yale School of Music. He wrote this piece in 2014, but for obvious reasons it's garnering more attention in 2020. It's interesting but not surprising to read how polarizing this piece was for the first audiences who heard it; the saying about art comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable comes to mind. And I guess audiences used to a restricted diet of classical chestnuts forget how political and polarizing compositions often were in the moment of their creation (Beethoven's "Napoleon" Symphony and his opera Fidelio, the Rite of Spring, pretty much everything by Shostakovich, etc.).
  19. All right, you've persuaded me to give this a try. I wasn't feeling hopeful, after the letdowns of Anchorman 2, Holmes and Watson, and the Between 2 Ferns movie. But it's not like I've got anywhere to be after work...
  20. Andrew

    Da 5 Bloods

    Yes, that's the one. I'm remembering it as a single monologue, but they may have cut away from him to a scene with the other characters in between. The lack of de-aging was a plus in my book, fitting thematically with the notion that trauma memories stay evergreen as our bodies age. And the temporal transitions didn't throw me here, as they did in Little Women. And I'm with you on those plotting elements - and the imminent land mine peril was too clearly telegraphed for my liking - together, they led me to give this 4.5 instead of 5 stars.
  21. Andrew

    Da 5 Bloods

    Is this as great as Do the Right Thing or When the Levees Broke? Not in my book, at least. But second-tier Spike Lee is still damn splendid, and I'm with you, Christian, this is my favorite film of the year so far. And there are three sequences that are absolutely GREAT in this film, that I will happily re-watch over and over: the joyous dance entry into "Apocalypse Now," Lindo's monologue, and the double dolly shot.
  22. Andrew

    House of Hummingbird

    Though it would've benefited from deeper characterization, this is still a solid debut from South Korean director Bora Kim. And though I'm not an expert on this country's cinema, my impression is that female directors are an even rarer species in South Korea than the US, making this debut extra welcome. Plus, it always makes me happy to see elements of Ozu's style employed with integrity. My full review is here.
  23. Speaking to the aside about transgender artists, I highly recommend the new Netflix doc Disclosure. Here's my review.
  24. Andrew

    Da 5 Bloods

    I dunno, great as Denzel indisputably is, I'm relieved it was not an iconic actor playing Paul, 'cuz I suspect it would've been inevitably Denzel-playing-Paul. And dang, Lindo carried the anger of that part so compellingly. On another note, have any of y'all seen Viet Thanh Nguyen's essay on Lee's film? I'll read anything by Nguyen after his superb debut novel, and I want to be sensitive to his critique of the film, but I feel he's asking Da 5 Bloods to be something it isn't. Lee's film is primarily about the black man's experience of Vietnam and America in the 60s and 70s, not about the effect of the American War on the Vietnamese, though his sprawling film certainly touches on this point. However, Nguyen's comment - that American visitors don't encounter the venom that Paul did in the floating market - resonates with my experiences during two visits to Vietnam.
  25. So this book has been mentioned a few times in threads devoted to John Ford or WW2 films, but it's such a good book that it deserves its own thread. Mark Harris really does a masterful job of weaving together cinema history, war history, and biography in a way that was a page-turner for me. Even as I struggle to focus with COVID stress, I blew through its 450 pages in less than a week. It's also a case of reading a book at the right time. When there are so many examples of institutional and individual cowardice these days, it's invigorating to read of five leading writer/directors who not only put their livelihoods but their very lives on the line. With my interest in PTSD, it's sobering to see how Huston, Wyler, and Stevens struggled with what we would now call PTSD in the aftermath of putting themselves in harm's way (and in Stevens' case, seeing the horror of the concentration camps). Even Ford, who loved to bloviate over war stories, was uncharacteristically mum after D-Day. Wyler in particular comes through as a solid mensch through and through. Until reading this and the BFI book on Best Years of Our Lives, I had no idea he was a Jewish immigrant from the Alsace-Lorraine region. Fascinating, too, to learn of the contributions of Chuck Jones, Theodore Geisel, and Mel Blanc to the war effort. I've watched two of the three Netflix episodes in the companion series, and their visuals are most welcome, even if it's not groundbreaking stylistically.
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